It is hypnotizing to watch Draegen at work. His fingers move quickly, manipulating wire and clay into fantastical creatures. Even if you watch him at every step, you still won’t be able to fully understand just how he does what he does. His pieces are not just amazing to look at either. You can interact with them, as parts open and close or sometimes move. His artwork combines artistic skill, creativity, and an understanding of engineering principles.
Many of Draegen’s pieces are based off his deep appreciation for movies and television. His brain is a library of media, and there are countless scenes he can recite at any given moment. Draegen was introduced to our program by his brother, who also has a knack for creativity. He arrived at our program with a project idea already developed, in which he would sculpt Egyptian canopic style jars based off the anime “Fairy Tale”. The project will entail twelve total jars inspired by the various zodiac signs in which he can store keys that are central to the anime’s plot. His vision is incredibly sharp, but he has still given himself the opportunity to take breaks and work on other incredible projects, like his wire sculpture of the character Ennard.
Draegen values authenticity in his work because he cares deeply about the characters he creates. Still, doesn’t put pressure on himself to live up to a standard of perfection. He loves his work because it is his, and implores others to do the same. When another youth in our program expressed disappointment with one of their creations, Draegen remarked, “How can you not love something you made? You made it.”
Draegen is currently working on several wire sculpture characters. Working with wire can be tedious, and in our last session he had the idea to share the workload with our program manager. He showed her a piece he had made from wire and asked her to copy it for him. Looking at the piece before her, she couldn’t even understand how he had made it. She agreed to help him if he walked her through the process step by step. She copied his movements but struggled to keep up. His intent in asking for her help was to finish this part of the sculpture faster. By teaching her and gently correcting her mistakes, the process ended up taking twice as long. But he never rushed her, and he never took her crooked sculpture away and huffed that he would just have to do it himself. He just told her that nothing is perfect, and gave her the space to learn.
Sometimes we introduce our youth to new forms of art they have not experimented with before. Sometimes our youth’s creative ideas introduce Million Little staff to new possibilities. In this moment, Draegen perfectly reflected Million Little’s approach to co-learning, and the manner in which our facilitators guide our students. Draegen has a gentle soul that shines through in his support of other participants in the program, as well as staff. Each week we see new ways in which this strength manifests and are overjoyed by it.